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The Last Lovecraft – Opening night at Toronto After Dark

The Last Lovecraft: Relic Of Cthulhu kicked off the opening gala at the 5th annual Toronto After Dark Film Festival last night, and also marked the film’s international premiere.  The film a horror comedy that sits in the same space as Jack Brooks Monster Slayer and, reaching back a bit, the original Tremors.  While I’m not sure it’s bound for cult classic status, the film does have it’s moments, and offers a humourous take on the Lovecraftian mythos, including an opening credit sequence that was reminiscent of the 80’s cult classic Re-Animator.

The basic premise is that the world H.P. Lovecraft envisioned was more fact than fiction, and the reason he could write about the nameless horrors is because of a genetic disposition that allows his bloodline to avoid going absolutely mad when confronted with the evil of the Old Ones.  A secret society has existed to protect the world from Cthulhu, but now that the second half of an ancient artifact has been uncovered (coincidentally just as the stars are aligning), only the last descendant of the horror writer can save the world.  That would be Jeff (Kyle Davis), a sometimes awkward office worker, who has no idea of his lineage. Luckily his best friend and room mate Charlie (Devin McGinn) is more well versed in Lovecraftian lore, and after being confronted with the initial threats, the adventure ensues.

Once the basic premise is out of the way, the story arc is pretty well tread ground.  What keeps The Last Lovecraft entertaining enough is the comedy, which for the most part hits all the right notes.  Some of it felt forced, but it was pretty rare, and there are a couple of stand out performances, especially from Barak Hardley as Paul, a high school friend and Lovecraft nerd who joins them on their quest, and the mysterious Captain Olaf, played by Gregg Lawrence.

If you’re going to do a creature feature, you need to have some good monster effects, and on this front, the film certainly delivers.  Most of the creatures ride the line between creepy and silly, with a couple of notable exceptions either way.  The sucker fish creature which appears in the trailer is most definitely on the silly side, but the spawn that attack a group of camping teenagers works well in delivering some chills.

Some of the most enjoyable parts of the movie for me were the animated sequences, including a comic book style recap of the history of the Old Ones coming to Earth during the time of the dinosaurs.  There are some great sequences with the animated Cthulhu fighting dinosaurs, especially notable is the point where he uses a recently decapitated triceratops head as a shield.

When making a low budget movie of this nature, it’s very often a labour of love for everyone involved, and that love comes across on film.  That’s because the budgetary constraints mean making sacrifices that larger films don’t have to worry about, and as someone who who’s got a soft spot for these types of moves, it’s tough to be critical.  There are problems though, mainly in the pacing and the editing.  There were a few points, such as the camping teenagers scene mentioned above, where just knowing when to cut would have made a difference in how things played out.

Even with some of the largely technical problems that come with an indie film, The Last Lovecraft is a fun horror-comedy romp with some great moments, and makes for a great popcorn flick.  It manages to evoke notes from other horror-comedy classics while remaining it’s own beast, which is something tough to pull off at any budget, when it comes to genre films.

At the end of the film, Devin McGinn, who plays Charlie and also wrote and produced the film, took to the stage, along with director Henry Saine, for a Q & A session, and were joined by other cast members.  It’s clear that they all enjoyed working together, and if all goes well, we’ll be seeing the sequel sometime down the road.  Let’s hope it’ll be making it’s premiere at Toronto After Dark sooner as opposed to later.

Cast and crew pictures, from left to right: Devin McGinn, Henry Saine, Mike McGinn (producer), Edmund Lupinski, Kyle Davis, Martin Starr

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